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Face Punching COPS: Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do? June 17, 2010

Well there is a first time for everything.

Afrocity is going to take out her handy dusty ol’ urban race card concerning the Seattle police officer who punched the 17 year old woman over a jaywalking offense.
(Places race card on the table, dust bunnies fall everywhere)

Understanding the often adversarial relationship between blacks and law enforcement is really something that you really have to be of color to understand.  Many African Americans do not trust the police- even when you are a law abiding citizen like myself.  My past experiences with the men and women in blue have been 99% horrible and traumatizing.     There are some professional figures in America that we are just expected and taught to trust without question…Doctors, clergymen, teachers, firemen and policemen.   Maybe part of this is due in part to how members of these professions were portrayed in cinema and media during the mid 20th Century.

Beaver Cleaver would get lost in the store and some nice cop swinging a billy club, chomping on a Red Delicious Apple that he took from the neighborhood fruit vendor, would sport a soft but commanding Irish accent.    Think Sean Connery’s character in The Untouchables.  Think little old woman wearing a floral print duster from Kmart needing to get her tabby cat  “Tobias” down from a tree.

The pictures that cinema rendered of policemen may have had some basis in fact.  The 1950’s are very different in terms of crime levels  from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.   I am not dismissing the law enforcement of yesteryear as bumbling keystone cops.  Of course there were murders and bank robberies. Indeed the guys from Dragnet were dealing with some serious issues.  Bad things did happen in pre-1960’s America and there were bad cops but television and movies were less likely to challenge the societal expectations of “Officer Friendly”.   When Officer Friendly dealt with a jaywalker it normally did not turn out like this:

I would not characterize the Seattle policeman as “Officer Friendly” .  While I believe that the teenage girl was wrong for resisting an officer’s detainment, after viewing the video numerous times, I do not see any reason as to why she should have been punched in the face.  Let’s remind ourselves that the post-Rodney King Era face punching cop hails from present day Seattle.  Seattle is a city in every sense of the word.  A routine distress call will involve mush more than old duster lady’s cat.   Here lies the difference between what a cop would and would not do in certain situations.

Once the 1970’s  descend upon us,  enter the “urban cop” .    Serpico, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, Baretta.  The world gets ugly and so do cops.  Cities become overcrowded with people and crime.  You have dirty cops, overworked cops, cops on the edge. Yes there are mentally unstable cops and cops who just cannot hack it.   Being a policeman in a large urban area like Chicago, New York, or Seattle is not an easy job.  You develop expectations for any given beat.   This is where race comes into play.   Let me go back to Officer Friendly for a moment.   Stay with me.  I grew up in Chicago.  I am admitting openly here on my blog that I do not trust policemen.  The way I have seen blacks, Hispanics, hippies, women and children treated by the Chicago Police in my forty years has been enough to make Afrocity run far, far, in the opposite direction when she sees that Chicago sky blue and white patrol car.

Have I ever done drugs? No.  Committed armed robbery? Nope.   But I have called on the policeman when I have been harassed or attacked and their response was to treat me like a criminal. Why? Because I  was African American and in an high-crime urban ghetto.  The cop shows up with an attitude.  He shows up thinking the worst of you and in my opinion this is where trust ends for me.  Officer Friendly is cloistered in Oak Park, Illinois.   Beautiful green suburban Oak Park.  Where during all a cop has to worry about was rain ruining the Easter egg roll competition at Rehm Park or the occasional rape of a female jogger at 5am.

I briefly lived in Oak Park as a child.  There was a situation once where my bicycle was stolen.  It took a special kind of humility to admit to myself that I was an idiot for not having locked the pink chunk of Huffy metal up while I went into the local drugstore for a candy bar.   My friend went to the pay phone to dial 911.

“What are you doing???!!!!”  I asked.

“Calling the police! We have to report it stolen,”  she answered as if I was a dummy.  Her blond hair and blue eyes were a contrast to my so badly needed to be relaxed nappy hair and brown eyes.   This girl was a born and bred suburban child.  I was a transplant from the West Side of Chicago.  Cops don’t help us.  If he finds my bike, more than likely he will keep it and give it to his niece as a Quinceanera present.  Against my instincts, I sat and waited for the policeman. This will take a while, I thought to myself.  Maybe 30 minutes, an hour…tomorrow.

It did not take long at all.  No sooner than I could say ” Betty’s got a blue bonnet”, did the orange and white Oak Park Police car pull up to the curb.

With increasing heart rate, I imagined what would happen next.  He would probably say something along the lines of  “Okay girl is this even your bike?  Did you steal it from someone else?  Did you get it during the 1968  looting on Madison Avenue?

I was wrong.

“Someone missing a bicycle huh?” asked the Oak Park police in a calming voice. “Who lost a bike?”

My friend pointed to me.  I went up to the policeman wringing my hands.  He asked me what happened. I explained that we were in the drugstore buying candy.  I laid the bike down without locking it because I thought I would be just a minute but we started looking at nail polish and magazines.   “And nobody steals in Oak Park like in Chicago,”  I declared during my statement.

The officer shook his head, “Oh yes they do and you should always secure your bicycle no matter how long you will be. “

I put my head down as the officer wrote on his pad.  The cop car began drawing a crowd of kids licking on ice cream cones.  This was surreal.  Where was the crazy welfare mom yelling about her shot son?  Where was unplugged fire hydrant with kids swimming in the black waters of the street while officers inspected a dead body left in the trunk of a Cadillac?  And why isn’t this officer yelling at me? Golly gee this is extraordinary.  It is freaking “Officer Friendly”.  Like the talking M&M’s he does exist!

“Was your bike registered with the Oak Park Police Department?” asked the nice cop.

I shook my head.  You could see the look of disappointment on his face as he shook his head back at me. “Always register your bikes with the police,”  he lectured.  “It makes it easier for us if it gets stolen…Now I have to talk to your mom about the serial numbers.”

Oh no, not mother.  Her knowing I lost the bike will be a childhood killer.  She paid $100 for it from Marshall Fields Department Store on State Street.  Damn.

“Move along kids,” the cop instructed.  He looked at one little boy eating a slice of white bread. “You’re gonna get fat off that bread kid.”

I got in the police car with him and he drove me home.   Mother must have been on Afrocity is in trouble radar because she bolted from our apartment building as I exited the car.

“Oh no, she didn’t do anything!” she yelling running up and grabbing me. “Why is she in the police car-“

“Ma’am your daughter’s bicycle was stolen today and we need some information on the make and model, serial numbers…She does not know anything besides it color- hot pink.”

My mother was more self-conscious and afraid of police than I was.  They were no friend of hers after her experience during the 1968 riots.  They were no friend of her son’s either.   Mother turned her lip up.  “Her bike was not stolen.”

I did a double take. What?

She continued, “I saw her bicycle laying by the light post unlocked.  I told her not to do it because it would be stolen.  O knew she was in that store buying candy or testing make up – whatever she does.  I took it home to teach her a lesson.”

Relief was a wonderful feeling.  “You mean you have it?”  I began jumping up and down.

“Yes it is in the house,” she motioned with her head towards our apartment building. “I did not expect her to call the cops. Why did you do that?”

“Sue made me.” I answered “It is what they do here when something happens.”

The policeman interrupted, “Your daughter did the right thing.  Guess you taught her a lesson though.”   He looked down at me.  “What is the lesson?”

I shrugged my shoulders “Not to leave my bike unlocked.”

“And????”  he asked.

There was a long pause.  “I don’t know”

He playfully tapped me on the head with his pad- not a billy club or the back of his hand.  “REGISTER YOUR BIKE”

“Oh yeah.”

“Okay you be good now and lock that bike”  Officer Friendly said getting in the patrol car.

Once inside the apartment, I saw my shiny pink bike leaning against the living room wall.  I had never been so glad to see a toy in my life.

“I told you to never call the police,”  Mother scolded.  “If someone is bothering you just start screaming in the streets…but for something like a bike or if you see something happening to someone else just stay away from them.”

“But he was nicer than the Chicago–“

“Yes because you are in a suburb with white people that he respects.  You think he would have been so nice if we were back in Chicago? He would not have given a damn about your bike or you.  Could have took it himself.”

During dinner, I asked mother if I could register my bike.  She flatly said:  “No,  we are not going into any police station unless someone drags us into one.”

Paranoid?  Yes.

Unjustifiably so?  No.

The more interesting question we must ask ourselves about the Seattle punch drunk urban cop is let’s suppose he was in La Jolla, CA and someone jaywalked.  Perhaps a well known doctor’s wife who had one too many martinis during the bake sale committee luncheon.

We all know how stressful those can be.

The officer stops her and she gets ugly and loud- hitting him with her Kate Spade wicker handbag.   If that doctor’s wife was punched in the face by the cop–all litigation hell would break lose.   One has the impression that if Mr. Seattle Cop was in a nice suburban enclave that he would not have punched at all.  I have seen enough white boy frat party raids to know this.

I have seen cops treat peace disturbing white yuppies far differently than blacks. Usually on the more physical roughness deficit side. Usually when the white law breaker was being far more aggressive towards the cop.   To be clear I am talking about white, black, Latino cops. ALL COPS in my opinion are more aggressive towards citizens in certain urban areas.  I have seen policemen detain shabbily dressed people when they were the ones who were attacked by the man in the three piece suit.

Policemen have biases just like every normal human being.   There is no reason for a man to be shot over 40 times by the New York Police or for a 17 year old teenager to be punched in the face for a jaywalking violation.  Force and power are gifts bestowed upon law enforcement that should be executed with a keen sense of judgment and without prejudice.

We will hear more about the Seattle case I am sure but in the meantime. I am on her side.  The crazy cop used unreasonable force. He needs a Training Day with Denzel Washington’s Oscar winning character “Alonzo”.

I call it how I see it.  It has nothing to do with being conservative or liberal.

Autographed Letter Signed,

Afrocity.

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30 Responses to “Face Punching COPS: Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?”

  1. yttik Says:

    I share a distrust of cops, Afrocity . And I frequent Seattle, so I really have a distrust of Seattle cops. Those guys are likely to get in your face for eating non-organic food or taser you for smoking on a public street or punch you in the face for jay walking.

    That said, what is it with people who distrust the cops, so they resist arrest, cuss them out, and generally attempt to engage them in combat?? Is that a rational way to behave towards somebody you distrust and fear? I distrust the armed guy with the badge and the 21 yr old raging testosterone, so I cooperate and kiss his ass. It’s not exactly soul affirming behavior, but it has kept me alive.

    Do you remember Chris Rock’s, how not to get your ass kicked? That was funny, but there was a lot of truth to it.

    I don’t believe we should be arresting people for jay walking and I certainly don’t believe in punching girls, but everything these girls did was all wrong when it comes to survival. One girl is resisting arrest and struggling, the other is jumping on the cop to help her friend. The crowd is egging him on by filming and carrying on, which no doubt got the cop’s blood pumping even more.

    Something I wonder about, are we setting up black kids to have bad experiences with cops? Are we teaching them that resistance is a good idea? Are we raising them to believe that the best way to get justice is hand to hand combat with the guy with the badge? Have we taught them that there is no hope for justice so you might as well just duke it out on the street? Because if that’s what we’ve taught, it’s really sad.

    • afrocity Says:

      Yttik,

      There is much logic in your comment. Personally, I would not have behaved as the 17 year old girl did. I would have just stood there. What I forgot to add to my blog was that there is a difference btwn distrust, hate and anger. I distrust cops, some people hate them The girl’s actions could have been just as poorly informed by past transgressions, lowered expectations and personal biases as his.

      Jaywalking is a silly offense. I do it not as often as most but I do. Sometimes a crosswalk is simply too far. If I see an opening in traffic. I scoot my butt btwn cars – holding out my hand.

  2. gs Says:

    1. I believe you, Af. No doubt at all in my mind. Back in the early 80s, I read Bill Russell’s autobiography and his description of the police’s attitude toward blacks.

    1a. Off-topic; rant warning. Ethnic Boston finally got around to naming a tunnel after Ted Williams even though his last name isn’t Irish or Italian. Well deserved: Williams was a great athlete, a great example of manhood, and a great American.

    But where’s that William Felton Russell Bridge, Bah-stun?!

    2. Libertarian Radley Balko at http://www.theagitator.com does a terrific job of documenting abuses of police and prosecutorial authority.

    3. I also agree that expecting the police to behave with discretion should be a nonpartisan attitude. Sadly, I’ve seen way too many commenters at conservative sites claim–vehemently–that some victim of law enforcement abuse had it coming.

    • afrocity Says:

      G’s—on #3 Yeah I do not understand why conservatives are blindly for law enforcement. I got a lot of flack for this post.

      • gs Says:

        Old joke: a conservative is a liberal who got mugged and a libertarian is a conservative who got arrested.

  3. Marnie Says:

    Afrocity,

    I have never really been a reader of blogs (at least not a faithful one), and I find myself waiting for you to post. I love your insight, and it always gets me thinking.

    I just hope that this incident is not used for more political gain from the left, and they prosecute him for assault, because he was wrong. Why does this country associate the military or cops with the right? More and more people in both professions are leaning left, I talk to them every day.

    I find jaywalking about the stupidest law, and a really liberal law. I’m smart enough to know when and where to cross the street that I will be the safest. If I don’t, and I get run over, then I’m the dumbo.

    Marnie

    • afrocity Says:

      Marnie thank you. I need to be better about posting. I have been busy lately so it has been difficult. I also get so frustrated sometimes that it takes all of my strength to write about situations that seem to never get better.

      I understand your concern about the left. I am a conservative and let me say that most conservatives do not agree with me on this story. Policemen are becoming part of the problem and not the solution. That is my concern. There also should be better psychological screening for potential cops.

      Look at this video–creepy

      • Marnie Says:

        The video was more than creepy. You have me at a lost for words. OMG did you see that pool of blood? Both these cops were wrong, you never ever hit a woman. The police are suppose to protect us. Even though I hate to see a police officer get disrespected, I hate it worse when they over step their authority. They are not all powerful, and are only there to ensure order.

  4. Truth For America Says:

    The cop was wrong. You never hit a woman like that.

  5. pauldsarmywife Says:

    Hello Afrocity,

    So I grew up in that ideal suburb. The only “real” crime we had growing up was underage drinking. I never did understand the distrust you spoke about, don’t get me wrong, I heard about it happening in the city, but never understood it. To me, when a police officer asks you a question or tells you to not do something, you answer and not do what he told you not to do. I guess you can just call me Wonderbread! I love your mom’s lesson, very funny, but I bet you NEVER left your bike unlocked again! I think growing up in the suburbs is a different experience for all races, as I never remember any friends being treated differently for their skin color. I remember when I was in high school and went to a party at the firemens grounds and had some beer from the keg (we were all 16 or 17 at the time and were sleeping in our tents overnight so we were not driving home at least), and being kids and being way too loud, the police showed up and all our parents had to come down to the firemens grounds to pick us up! Each child had a good yelling at by our parents, were taken home, grounded, but not arrested, just sent home in the custody of our parents. I really feel bad that you grew up so distrustful of police, and that your mom had to experience the worse side of city police.
    I agree this officer needs to be charged, his actions certainly are not justified, and thankfully he will be charged and removed from duty so he will no longer be able to treat anyone that way again!
    Thanks for your insight into the racial side of it, I guess I was never going to ask any friend of color the why of the distrust, or if they even did distrust this way. I guess I just assumed everyone knew to trust the police.

    • afrocity Says:

      Army wife,

      Thanks for understanding. Oak Park was like something from a postcard. I think police just are on guard more and more suspicious in urban settings. They are human and look, the Seattle girl was no shrinking violet. She had actually resisted arrest in the past during a prior separate incident. I still believe the cop should not have struck her in the manner that he chose to.

      You are right, I never left the bike unlocked again! 😉

  6. LuAnn Says:

    I am a white woman who has been married for 21 years to my husband, who is black. If I had never known him, I likely would never have understood this perspective on law enforcement. He is the most gentle, kind person you could imagine, and in our early years, he was of slight build – 130-140 lbs, 5’8″. I couldn’t imagine him ever being perceived as threatening. Yet, he was pulled over and detained by police on a few occasions, all baseless.

    I don’t know how to change it, but I pray that it does one day. God bless you for the strength to share your truth.

  7. I know nothing of Seattle, except how to spell it & where to find it on a map, and now to that I can add a 53 second video clip (above).

    Based on what we see in that video, the copper couldn’t be found to be out of order.

    She wasn’t “punched in the face for Jaywalking”.
    She was physically resisting police, in company.
    He used his fist only because he hadn’t imagined the situation would escalate or that he would need a weapon. When it did escalate he used what he had.

    She should be charged with Jaywalking, Resisting police, also with assaulting police.
    Her friend should be charged with assaulting police, also with the hindering police.

    The officer should be carpeted by his station commander, for bringing the job into possible disrepute, by allowing a jaywalking ticket on a teenage girl to escalate in such a manner.
    His station commander should then advise him that he SHOULD have, when it escalated, backed up a few steps, pulled out his spray, stated that he had spray and WILL use it.

    He should NEVER have stopped her in the first place. Jaywalking as a crime is only slightly more serious than blowing oversize bubble-gum balloons.

    • afrocity Says:

      He did not have to punch her.

      • Patti Says:

        I agree with Steve, mostly. The girls were not arrested for jaywalking. There is so much more to this story that you cannot make an assessment based on a 53 second clip. In fact, I will link a longer clip so you can see how vulnerable the cop was in this situation and how uncooperative the girls really were. His punch was a defensive manuever and one to quell the situation. It worked and no one was hurt, as was reported. According to training cops, he did as he was trained to do. Also, from what I understand, this part of the road is a problem for frequent jaywalkers and cars almost hitting them. The neighborhood requested that cops patrol the area. There is even a pedestrian overpass 15 feet from where the girls were jaywalking so why did they not use that? Yes, I live in the Seattle area. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/96353934.html

      • Absolutely did not have to punch her. He should be carpeted for it, but in the circumstances it would be difficult to get anything stronger than a carpeting to hold water.

  8. manbearpig68 Says:

    The cop was an idiot for what he did. He was lucky he didnt get jumped by the group. Why not any other cops there?

  9. garnette Says:

    While I agree with you that the cop went too far with his reaction to the woman, the thought that keeps going through my mind is that we have no idea what it is like to be a policeman.

    Every time they interact with someone they have no idea what is going to happen. There day to day work is only something we can imagine. There are some that take their position and use that power over others, but there are others who put their life on the line for us on a daily basis. Here is a news story about a policeman who was shot on a routine traffic stop. Since he was sitting in his car when he was shot, he didn’t suspect that things would go the way they did.
    http://www.wkrn.com/global/Story.asp?s=10595898

  10. Holly Says:

    I live about 2 hours away from Seattle and across the bridge from Portland, OR, and we have an interesting array of people, political ideologies, and attitudes towards the police.

    Just last week a police officer went into a coffee shop in Portland, OR and was forced to leave by the owner. A journalist happened to be there when it happened and come to find out, like most places here, it was a very liberal hippie owned establishment who don’t particularly like cops. The spokesman for the police department said when asked why this happens that Portland is very liberal, with communists, socialists, and anarchists and that they deal with it. She said that he will learn (because he was new to the area) of which places will welcome him and which ones will not.

    Seattle is no different from Portland. It is a very interesting microcosm of people who have a trust and visceral distrust of authority. I think this distrust bleeds into law enforcement and the hesitation to see each other as equals is shared at times. I am not saying it is right, but it seems to happen.

    The girls probably did not help themselves with how they responded to the police officer, but the police officer was wrong. There is no excuse for such aggressive behavior. The infraction she committed is completely irrelevant anyways; I would assume that police officers have better things to do than to give a citation for jaywalking. I do it all the time.

    I do not share you distrust of police officers, but I can understand why you do. I just hope that all of us can work to bridge this uncertainty society has with one another.

    • afrocity Says:

      Thanks for the insight into Seattle Holly. I used to want to visit it terribly now I am not so sure. Portland is another place that I have always wanted to visit but after some recent incidents in the media, this chick may just stick with the midwest and east coast.

      • Patti Says:

        Seattle is not filled with communists, socialists and anarchists. It is not like the Portland that Holly describes. If you come here, you will be treated with respect, so do not fear. Yes, it is very liberal, but most people do not strike up conversations with strangers (or acquantances) about politics as it is considered rude.

        • Holly Says:

          Patti, of course not everyone is that way, but it is an element that does exist. Seattle is a cool city, so is Portland. I was born and raised in the NW and love it, but we have to be honest that there is a very real and inherent distrust in authority that exists here, which is ironic since WA and OR are very liberal, and liberalism is the antithesis of individuality.

          Afrocity, I do suggest you visit the area. It really is beautiful here and I think you would enjoy your stay. If one wants to live here though, I think one should be aware of the politics of the area because the NW is saturated in liberalism that borderlines collectivism and has elements of anarchism when at the extreme left that is visible. The rest of us just live our lives and want to be left alone, which is much like everyone else in the country.

          • Patti Says:

            “…there is a very real and inherent distrust in authority that exists here…”

            Sorry, I just don’t think that Seattle is any different from any other big city in so far as there are some people that distrust cops, but it is not a collective attitude by any means. As you know, Seattle covers a very large area, not just downtown, so perhaps you are referring to a specific neighborhood?

            I’ve lived here for 45 yrs and have never met an anarchist.

    • I share Afrocity’s distrust of police. The only reason I can fathom for lack of distrust of police would be lack of exposure to police.

      One can only wonder what voiced opinion of the owner of that “liberal hippy coffee shop” would be toward a (say) large chain coffee shop who refused service in their outlets to just about any other profession/occupation? Perhaps a fast food chain that refused to allow activists to enter?

      Personally, if the man is good enough to wear a uniform & man the thin blue line, he’s good enough to serve coffee & pastry to. I’m certain he’d be good enough to call on when the windows break during the night & stealthy footsteps come through the house…..

      I’ll accept anybody in my place, provided they don’t start trouble. All people are equal, though I’m inclined to think that coffee shop owner may just be a notch lower than the rest of us.

  11. Tiny Says:

    She did grab and push the cop…The punch was an over reaction. Any time you resort to physical violence you just may get it right back at ya.
    Arrested for jaywalking though?!

    • Patti Says:

      They were not arrested for jaywalking. They were cited for jaywalking. Then they were arrested for obstructing and assaulting an officer.

  12. shari Says:

    to the person who feels sympathy for cops because they walk into what could be dangerous situations daily I just dont agree. Many of these cops are mentally disturbed, power hungry, some are ex military. I dont feel sorry for them. YOu dont have to be a coup. If you dont have the even temperament and basic knowledge of the constituion and law then you shouldnt be a cop. Be a mall security guard.

    • afrocity Says:

      Observe and Report is a dark comedy about the psychological issues which plague mall security and policemen.
      It stars Seth Rogen and Ray Liotta. I recommend it.

    • Holly Says:

      This seems like a very general statement to make.

      “Many of these cops,” which would be who exactly? What does the fact that some are ex-military have to do with it?

      I did not defend the action of the police officer, but sometimes force is required and a police officer should not have to apologize for defending himself when his safety or anothers is endangered.

    • garnette Says:

      Recently a policeman walked into a business I happened to have just entered. He described a man who had been reported to be in the area to see if he had entered the business. I can’t remember the crime the man was suspected of doing, but it involved shooting a couple of innocent victims. I thought wow, this policeman knows that the man he is looking for shot a couple of people for no reason and yet he is doing his best to find this man to protect others knowing that the man could shot him in order to not be arrested. How many people would want to turn in the other direction instead of walking toward the danger? You can have your opinion, but just remember that this could have been your neighborhood or any neighborhood in the country, and what would you have wanted the policeman do, just ignore the report of the suspect being in the area?


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